Monday, September 14, 2009


Twice this summer I’ve spotted Blue-tailed skinks – once just outside the basement door and once on my deck. When I was a child growing up, we called these little lizards “scorpions.” I have no idea why they were called that.

Neither did I know as a 10-year-old that the dark body with yellow stripes running down the body to the end of the blue tail was the sign of a very young Blue-tailed skink. I assumed that the colorful ones were males and the reddish brown ones were females.

After all, colorful males are the standard in the world of birds. It was years before birds and dinosaurs were scientifically connected, but that was my youthful conclusion. I was wrong, though. Males become reddish brown and lose their stripes as they age, while females keep the blue tail.

What I did know was that their tails would break off and keep wriggling if you grabbed one. I also concluded they have some sort of tie with other individuals because I once caught a big, brownish skink (maybe four inches long) and put it in a commercial size glass jar, the kind pickled eggs come in, then put the jar under a crack in the wooden porch of our house where I had seen another skink peeking out earlier.

When I came back, the blue-tailed lizard had fallen or jumped into the jar. I thought they were mates, though I now know it was a young blue-tail and an adult male. Maybe they were related or maybe the young one was curious just as the young of other species are curious. I freed them later.

Blue-tailed skinks (Cryptoblepharus egeriae) are common in the Eastern part of America. They are predators, eating small insects and burrowers that maintain more than one entrance to there homes for safety. Mostly, I know they are gorgeous when they pause, with alert black eyes looking for danger.

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